Response to Richard (2): His emptying

Richard’s second point is more challenging. On July 1, I wrote, “Jesus set up base camp among us, limiting himself to just the resources we have–nothing supernatural* up his sleeve, nothing in his hat that we don’t have available when we’re drawing sap (sustenance) from Him–to show us how being plugged into God as our Father works: ‘I do only what I see the Father doing. I say only what the Father teaches me to say.’ *with rare exceptions, like the Transfiguration.”

Richard added, “. . . the Transfiguration and the many miracles He performed, and the thousands of healings, both physical and spiritual, that He accomplished, and the many times He demonstrated His omniscience, etc., etc. (Some people try to claim that, while on earth, Jesus abandoned using any of His attributes as deity. Obviously, that’s not so. But understanding the balance in the God-man between His deity and His humanity takes a more nuanced understanding than most of us humans are capable of…)”

This brought me to my knees. I don’t want to–don’t dare–misrepresent Scripture. So I have been praying, searching my heart and then searching the gospels.

Philippians 2:5ff. teaches that Jesus “emptied himself” of whatever it was that made him equal with the Father. That implies he voluntarily limited his divinity while he was physically present with us. He never was, is, or will be not fully divine (and apparently since “taking on the form of a man,” he will never again not also be fully human) but somehow these attributes were cloaked for a time.

The only analogy I can come up with (and as my Bible profs put it at Multnomah, “no analogy can stand on all four legs”) is a seeing man, perhaps a father, who lets himself be blindfolded by his children and led through a house or garden. Or who restricts h/irmself while with blind people by closing his eyes, using a white cane and reading only Braille. He does not lose his sight, but he covers it temporarily, for a specific purpose.

A father teaching his child to talk can limit his words to a child’s vocabulary. When he teaches his child to walk he can limit himself to walking at the child’s speed. In Black Like Me (, anglo John Howard Griffin darkened his skin to walk in the experience of being black in a racist world. In Disguised!, Pat Moore wore braces under baggy clothes which bent her back and stiffened her legs. She used theatrical make-up to gray her hair, add wrinkles to her skin, and dim her vision so she could identify with the varied ways the elderly are treated in our society.* I know these analogies fall woefully short but couldn’t Philippians 2 mean something like that?

There is evidence in Scripture that Jesus Christ did and said all that he did indirectly, in sole reliance on the divine attributes (although he had them) as he received them from the Father, just as we have to–filled with the Holy Spirit and in response to prayer. Secondhand, in a sense.

The fact that Jesus prayed to the Father while on earth (I’m pretty certain He doesn’t have to communicate with his father that way now that he is Home) indicates his dependence on and obedience to the Father for what was already, always, and rightfully his but was, by mutual consent, suspended for a time.

Hang on before you blast me, Richard. I want to give examples from Scripture and from personal experience–of how I think Jesus lived it out and how we can, too, the same way. Let me take a deep breath and go to Response (3).

*On Goodreads, Sarah Phoenix noticed the similarity between the two books and calls Disguised! “Old, Like Me.”


About Jessica Renshaw
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